Tuesday, 6 December 2011

On Women Having to be More Like "Men" to be Seen

By now you have probably run across Kira Cochrane’s most excellent article on CiF about her months-long research on the absence of women in British public life. I wrote a summary for Women’s Views on News if you don’t have time for the 3400-odd word long original piece (yes, it was a tough summary and I’m bragging about it).

The response from the Feminist World has been positive; Cochrane’s statistics have left us asking “how come???”. The answer is “deregulation of the economy”, of course, but I’ve covered that many times already.

Bidisha has written about Cochrane’s piece and about BBC’s Todayprogramme in particular. The “excuse” given by the editor Ceri Thomas for the huge disparity between male and female voices (2:1 at the best of times) is that:

“They are difficult jobs but the skillset that you need to work on the Today programme and the hide that you need, the thickness of that, is something else. It's an incredibly difficult place to work”.

Thomas’ argument picked my interest, because it’s given way too often to explain away “why there aren’t more women”. And it's nonsense.

Thomas is missing the forest for the trees. Because things work precisely backwards from the way he’s thinking them.

If an environment does not have an equal proportion of men and women, then it’s the environment’s fault. Not women’s.

If an environment is too “tough”, too “demanding”, too “difficult”, too “sensitive to female cooties”, then that environment should change. The onus for change is on the sexist environment, not on women to become “tougher”, to wash off their “female cooties”, in short, to be more like men. 

But the problem is not that women are not like men, but rather that society is built under the template “men”. That is not the fault of women.

Women have been told since day one of patriarchy, that the problem is that they are not enough “like men”. (At this point, you are encouraged to remember the song “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”, and keep it playing in the background of your mind). “Oh, if only you women were more like men, then you would fit perfectly in this society we have designed for men”, quoteth Patriarchus.

Well, no. This has never worked and it will never work. And its only purpose is to divide women into “those who can pull off being like men” and those who can’t. And because only a few women will be able to at any given time*, those women rise and are used to shame the rest of us for not succeeding at being more like “men”.   

In short: if the “Today” programme is “too difficult” for women, then they should make it easier. And if that doesn’t work in bringing more women on board, they should try something else. Until there’s equal representation.

Alternatively they could just use quotas, but Thomas doesn’t appear keen on that.

Oh, and I won’t leave without saying this: working for the BBC, for the “Today” programme DIFFICULT??? HA! This is one of the clearest examples of the overblown sense of importance of the “managerial class” I’ve seen in a while. Your job is “too difficult”??? Where do you work? In the ER wing of a hospital? In a war zone? A rape crisis centre?

Always be wary of upper middle class people trying to make their work appear “difficult”. It’s nothing but an attempt to justify their position in the social hierarchy. You and I know that the most difficult jobs in this world are the worst paid. 

 * In order to understand this you have to remember that for patriarchy to work, men and women must be clearly differentiated. So if a lot of women became "more like men" and, for example, grew a thicker skin, then the characteristic "having a tick skin" will stop being exclusively male. And Patriarchus would define its opposite, "having a thin skin" as the male and desirable characteristic and shame women for, you guessed it, "being different to men".

1 comment:

Claudia Cahalane said...

Ooh, some excellent points! It does really annoy me when people like this claim their job is 'really difficult'. grr